State of the Arts is next Friday at the Kimbell Art Museum. As Jerome Weeks gets ready to host the conversation, he has been chatting with leaders of performing arts groups in Fort Worth. He’s finding they are experimenting with different spaces and new ways to reach audiences. I sat down with him to talk about what he’s hearing.
You can click above to listen to our conversation. Or just scan the highlights below. Hope you join us in Fort Worth on Friday Sept. 22.
From stage to screen
The Cliburn has been a pioneer in using live streaming of its piano competitions and its concert performances to reach a worldwide audience of classical music fans. It’s been a tremendous success for the Cliburn to access all these audience members on its own terms.
A much smaller company has found another way to capitalize on the new ways we watch TV. Stage West is going to start running ads on live-streaming services like Hulu and SlingTV.
“It’s kind of cool, if you ever watch Hulu or Comedy Central, they have local commercials,” says Dana Schultes, executive director of Stage West. “You’ll often see a TXU commercial for example. And so we looked into it and found that it was something we could afford to invest in this year and see if we can engage with audiences through that medium. In fact that’s what’s happening in the other space. We’re filming a commercial about Stage West for streaming television.
Pop-ups and alternative spaces
Pop up shows, or shows in unusual venues, are a trend in the performing arts. Theater groups performing in courtyards. Classical musicians in bars. Sofar Sounds is one of several groups putting on secret house concerts. Sofar’s a global company, started in London. Carolina Armstrong leads Sofar Sounds DFW. She says the company’s founders got tired of seeing their favorite bands in crowded clubs.
“They were just finding as I think we all do, if you’ve been to see a band you really love, you’re excited for their success, if they’re at a bigger venue, that’s more talking, more jostling, more texting, more instagram storying, and less just focus on the music. And so they wanted to create an intimate space where musicians can really be heard and respected.”
You ask smaller theater groups, music groups, what’s the single biggest thing holding them back, and the number one answer usually would be performance spaces. They’re hard to find, hard to afford
But Kathleen Culebro, artistic director for Amphibian Stage Productions, says there’s something else holding back Fort Worth groups:
“I think our city needs to get on board with arts funding, for the longest time, the arts have been significantly funded by a handful of families. The elders of those families are getting later in life and their children are not necessarily staying in Fort Worth. And our elected officials – not all of them – but in general, arts funding has been a very difficult sell in this community. People feel that those four or five families should pay for it all. And those families are saying it’s time for others.”
Obviously, cultural funding is an issue facing arts groups in other cities as well, but Kathleen’s analysis points to a situation that’s very specific to Fort Worth.